Before I get into the day’s events (and finish yesterdays), let me inform you of the new plan and take the time to answer a few reader questions.
First things first – new travel plans! Staying in Munich one extra night and then Friday morning I’m jumping a train for Salzburg, Austria. Going to spend the day in Salzburg (Mozart’s birthplace and home to many Sound of Music locations) then get on an overnight train to Zagreb, Croatia. Spending three nights in Croatia then over-nighting it back to Salzburg then onto Vienna. Will update more after that. At this rate, looks like Helsinki or Stockholm around the time of my birthday…
Now, onto reader questions –
The big one seems to be about Dachau and my reactions to it. To be perfectly honest, I was okay up until I walked into the crematorium. You enter the building through the undressing room, go through a door labeled Brausebad (Showers – the first in the series) and then into a empty room designed for body storage. Like an assembly line, one room to the next. That’s when I lost it. The next room was where the furnaces were, four of them, with the chimneys rerouted through the floor and then out. The ovens could hold three bodies at a time and just walking through there my chest tightened and I could feel tears running down my face. It gave me chills. It was right after that I saw the memorial for “the thousand unknown” and like I said, I just couldn’t take a picture of it. It seemed, I don’t know, disrespectful somehow, to snap a shot for a scrapbook.
And we only saw a small part of the original camp. They had two bunkers set-up as displays and the rest were just outlines on the ground, two by two and they stretched for maybe 300 yards, maybe more. And when you think each bunker was maybe a 100 feet long, it was a lot of buildings to hold more humanity than it was designed for. Walking along the center strip, what would have been the central avenue between the two rows of bunkers, for long minutes also got to me. It’s when you start thinking about the sheer numbers involved it really gets overwhelming.
We’ll see what happens in Auschwitz. Oh and Mom, speaking of the March of the Living – I was talking to my tour guide today (more on that in a minute) and she said when she was in Poland she ran across a group of Jewish kids doing that…and they were met with open hostility and hatred – something I haven’t experienced at all in Germany.
Riley, I would love to take you to the castle! We’ll see if we can’t figure out a way to make that happen. I even got you and Bailey presents from there, so just wait until I get back!
Bailey, it’s pretty hot here, too! And rainy! A few nights ago the thunder was so loud it woke me up!
I think that’s it for questions, but as I get more, I’ll answer them. And now, on to the adventure!
Yesterday, after the camp, I kept the theme going and went on the Third Reich tour. Hitler moved here to Munich in 1913 and (I found out today) was actually trained by the army in the art of public speaking and rhetoric and was sent to spy on fringe political groups. It was one of those groups he ended up joining and, in 1920, taking over. He changed the name to the National Social Workers Party (he never called it the Nazi party, though, that was a derogatory term the newspaper used). And then, in 1923, tried to take over the government. He failed, but the judge in his case, where Hitler acted as his own lawyer, allowed him to speak at length in his own defense and then gave him an extremely light sentence. This all happened in Munich.
Also, in addition to the Hitler history, we saw two memorials.One was for the dead from WWI and the other was to commemorate the actions of an 18 year girl named Sophie who was instrumental in The White Rose, a rebel movement against the Nazis here. I first heard about her in Berlin in the resistance fighter museum. Pretty sure she was Jewish – and if you look on top of her memorial, it is covered with pebbles.
And I keep forgetting to mention, the catalyst for Krystalnacht was a guy named Grynzspan (but when spoken sounds eerily similar to another, more familiar name) who tried to assassinate a high ranking Nazi in retaliation for the expulsion of Jews to Poland (his parents were part of that). Two days later came the Night of Broken Glass.
Munich is like the Austin of Germany. It’s the art center and fiercely independent. After the Third Reich tour I wanted to learn more, so I went on the city walk this morning. Okay, it was free since I had booked other tours with the same company and I almost didn’t get to go anyway. I was there, waiting, but somehow they didn’t see me and were going to cancel the tour but I convinced them to go anyway, So I had a private tour with Maxine, a former Australian who has been in Munich for 11 years. We hit all the big sights, including the church where the now Pope used to be Arch-Bishop and the Hofbrauhaus (where Hitler first announced the formation of the Nazi party – please refer to the above paragraph and understand I’ll be using the derogatory term for convenience sake). At the Hofbrauhaus, the regular drinkers can get a locker for their steins for about 3 Euro a year. It’s a token fee but the waiting list is huge! That’s me in front of some of them.
We also saw this monument to the generals. I’ve made the picture bigger than normal and you can enlarge it further, but you need to look at the lions. Notice they are looking in opposite directions and the one on the left has his mouth open? That’s because the building on the left is the government and on the right is a church – the subtle symbolism here? Say what you want to the politicians, but when it comes to the church – keep your mouth closed!
After the tour, Maxine pointed out the big Glockenspiel in the middle of Marianplatz and that there was a 6 story bookstore across the way and I could watch the automatons from eye-level – so I did. Then I went to a weird little museum which had a display of 100 years of Teddy Bears. In reality, though, it looked like one of those swap-meet style antiques stores and it was up way too many flights of circular stairs in a tower older than the bears it was showcasing. I took pictures just to make it worth climbing up there!
Then I came back to the hostel and took a nap. I was exhausted! A couple of trips and some internet research got me my new travel plans and then I was off to find someplace to watch the big game tonight. It was the semi-finals of the Eurocup (like the world cup but only for European teams, held every fourth year, alternating with the world cup – and the reason prices are sky high in Austria right now) and Germany was playing Turkey. This is bog because Germany (and Munich in particular) has a large Turkish population. The previous games I’d been watching in the hostel, usually while working on a post, but I figured a big game like this, I should experience it with other people. So I did. And it was fun. I ordered a coke light and the waiter scowled at me, so I ordered a beer (at first I ordered a beer mixed with sprite – I just pointed at what some woman at my table was drinking and then she and the waiter said that was a girl’s drink and laughed at me so I got a regular beer. They take their beer drinking very seriously here!). Oh yeah, Germany won, 3-2, with a late goal. Very exciting match, really.